Pankaj Mishra is a writer and novelist whose essays on politics and literature have appeared in publications such as The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Guardian and Granta. He is also the author of several books, including An End to Suffering: The Buddha in The World, published in 2004; From the Ruins of the Empire: The Intellectuals Who Remade Asia, published in 2012; and A Great Clamour: Encounters With China and its Neighbours, published in 2013. In his latest book, Age of Anger, Mishra discusses the ongoing rightward shift in global politics, and the rise of nationalism in both India and the West.
Surabhi Kanga, an assistant editor with Vantage, interviewed Mishra about his book over the phone and later over email. They discussed the value of studying historical parallels, the relationship between Hindu, German and Italian nationalism, as well as the influence of European thought on the manner in which leaders such as Mohandas Gandhi and VD Savarkar perceived power.
Surabhi Kanga: What do you define as the age of anger and why did you choose to call it that?
Pankaj Mishra: There is obviously something that is manifesting in political behaviour right now—in the way that electorates have voted for people like Donald Trump, or for completely unwise policies like Brexit, and of course, for Mr Narendra Modi in India. It is increasingly present in the way people behave with each other in public or on social media—we have entered an age in which anger is the most dominant emotion, and more dominant than any other emotions. Compassion, sympathy—a lot of these other emotions through which we identify as human beings are not as much in evidence as anger.
SK: In the book, you suggest that this anger is not new, drawing parallels between recent political developments across the world and Europe in the eighteenth and nineteenth century. You focus in particular, on the rage that was building up in Germany and France at that time. What is the significance of studying these parallels?